Last month, just when we thought the economy was finally on the upswing, the stock markets took another huge tumble, proving the volatility and unpredictability of today’s business world.
This month, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is a stark reminder of one of this continent’s greatest tragedies; it’s also a reminder of how fragile the world has become and how it’s been infinitely altered since that day of infamy 10 years ago.
It’s hard to fathom a decade has passed since that watershed moment, as it now so clearly defines the new millennium. The human tragedy that unfolded will never be forgotten, nor should it be — not for New Yorkers or any North American.
On the business side, 9/11 forever changed travel and security measures. Since then, the hotel industry has suffered a series of calamities, including SARS, geopolitical tension throughout the world, a lingering recession, the European debt crisis and the most-recent debt problems south of the border.
While it’s natural to get sucked into a vortex of negativity, it’s important not to lose sight of the strides made by hoteliers in the past decade. Though marked by tragedy, human loss and the sense of fragility that now pervades business and our daily lives, the industry has proven its remarkable resilience, recovering after 9/11 to a point of experiencing its best year ever in 2005.
Today’s hotel industry is markedly more sophisticated, infinitely more tech-savvy and newly committed to social responsibility and the environment. From a design point of view, hotels are swankier, hipper and a lot more happening than they once were. Similarly, today’s customers are more demanding, looking to social media to fuel many of their decisions regarding where to travel, where to eat or which hotel to patronize. We’re even using social media to voice our approval or disapproval.
Undoubtedly 9/11 may be viewed as a day that marked the end of our innocence. It can also be viewed as the beginning of a new era, one in which we have come to learn to appreciate that situations can change dramatically and with greater alacrity than ever before. Whereas an event of such magnitude might have happened every so often, today, it’s happening more regularly — whether it’s tsunamis, earthquakes, riots or economic insolvency. And the impact is greater than ever, because we are more connected globally than we’ve ever been. As Scott Duff, senior director, Development, Starwood Hotels told Hotelier recently, “If you go back many years, there might have been a big event happening every decade or two. Now it’s weekly; it’s become the new state of normal.”
On the heels of what would have been Marshall McLuhan’s 100th birthday, the man who coined the phrase “The medium is the message,” and a decade after the impactful events of 9/11, we’ve come to better understand how inexorably linked we are to one another — even thousands of miles away. What happens here today in the confines of your hotel will, undoubtedly, be affected by what is taking place in other corners of the world.